Tag Archives: George Osborne

The Secret Seven

Secret Seven! The name evokes disdain or contempt among many readers who are otherwise ardent fans of Enid Blyton … for most of us the Secret Seven happens to be the least revered series in Blyton’s canon. Is this because the books were written for a younger set of readers? Could it be the smaller format? The perpetual scowl on the face of their highhanded leader, perhaps? –In Defence of the Secret Seven

Now the reshuffle’s over, the full Cabinet is thirty-two – sixteen a side, an unprecedented length for a Cabinet meeting as you can see from the table they use (screengrab off the news by Gaz Weetman):

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I hope you like the solution!

At the beginning of December 2010, Vince Cable was the Minister responsible for the BSkyB decision, and he wasn’t minded to give it to Murdoch.

By 20th December 2010, a sting operation run by the Telegraph had ensured that Cable wasn’t the quasi-judicial decider on BSkyB any more – Jeremy Hunt was.

David Cameron, George Osborne, and James Murdoch all knew before 20th December that Vince Cable didn’t favour the NewsCorps bid for BSkyB and James Hunt did.

We know now, after this morning’s evidence at Leveson Continue reading

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Men in politics

Rose Fernandes lives in a 5-bedroomed house in Brent, with her three children (two daughters and a son) and her 83-year-old mother, who has dementia. One of her daughters, Crystal, age 25, is autistic.

Fernandes is the main carer for her mother and her daughter.

This year her landlord will almost certainly put up the rent above £500 a week. That means in Housing Benefit alone, her landlord will be getting from the state via Rose Fernandes and her family, £26,000 a year.

David Cameron
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Filed under Benefits, Disability, Housing, Poverty, Women

Tories play the victim

This is Paul Baverstock of MHP Communications writing in the Financial Times today on the specific topic of a company which has had an information security breach, compromising customer personal and financial details. His advice is solid and sound for all kinds of problems. Customers have a right to expect a company which has let them down

  • to be contrite and transparent, not defensive or evasive
  • to give clear and sincere responses, rather than formulaic or legalistic
  • information provided should be consistent
  • give timelines for the progress you’re making to remedy the situation.
  • above all, “don’t play the victim”

He quotes a spokeswoman from Visa, the credit card company:

Instead, companies should ensure their response passes the “kitchen table test”, says Ms Whenman. “My advice to clients is always to ask: ‘Will the information we’re providing make sense to the customer sitting at their kitchen table? Will our actions and decisions seem reasonable to them? Does our response answer the questions they’ll be asking themselves?”

I’m obliged to John Prescott for retweeting this response from John Olsen, who is MD and Head of Engineering & Industrials at MHP Communications, but notes “Views my own.”

Nearly two years after Tories and LibDems lost the election and went into coalition to run the country, George Osborne has had a free hand Continue reading

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Honey, I shrunk the economy

Benedict Brogan argues in his Telegraph blog:

Persistent doubts about the men at the top distract us from assessing the more subtle work of this Government, and from answering the most vital question: what will Britain look like by the time Mr Cameron submits himself for re-election in 2015?

By “persistent doubts”, Brogan means the idea people have got that David Cameron and George Osborne and the rest of the Cabinet of millionaires are “arrogant dilettantes with too much money and no idea of what the squeezed middle is going through”. You know, the kind of men who have never had to think twice about the cost of a dozen grand cru wines and who never lunched by buying a hot pasty and eating it on the run. The kind of men who expect to spend £40,000 a year on their son’s secondary school education regard it as a feature, not a bug, that university education means students whose parents weren’t rich enough to afford Eton will leave university £60,000 in debt.
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Tax the rich at 90%

Today George Osborne plans to cut income tax for the richest people in the country by 10%. The Welfare Reform Act will have made it much more expensive to be poor. (If you’re unemployed and living on benefits, your scanty income is taxed at a higher rate than anyone else’s.)

The nonsense idea that if you cut taxes on the rich their increased wealth will trickle down to the poorest has proved an abject failure in every single economy in which it has been tried. It keeps being tried, though, for the main reason that many of the very rich love the idea.

What we need to boost the economy is increased public spending, not austerity measures.
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Let Labour Be Labour

I used to vote Labour consistently. I’ve never voted SNP. I believe in devolution, not independence.

I wrote a detailed takedown of one particular Labour MP, Douglas Alexander, who quite evidently has more loyalty to his party than to any left-wing principles, but this is a general complaint: where are the Labour MPs who are willing to show they stand for something other than just the status of being an MP?

Sixty-four years earlier Aneurin Bevan said:

Referring to Mr. Churchill’s “set-the-people-free” speech, Mr. Bevan said that the result of the free-for-all preferred by Churchill would have been cinemas, mansions, hotels, and theatres going up, but no houses for the poor. “in 1945 and 1946,” he said, “we were attacked on our housing policy by every spiv in the country – for what is Toryism, except organized spivery? They wanted to let the spivs loose.” As a result of controls, the well-to-do had not been able to build houses, but ordinary men and women were moving into their own homes. Progress could not be made without pain, and the important thing was to make the right people suffer the pain.

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Filed under Elections, Equality, Scottish Politics

Of devolution, independence, and oil

Scotland has oil. In 2001, the UK was producing 2.54 million barrels of oil per day from the Scottish waters (and using 1.699). Demand for oil has risen, but the revenue from the oil has dropped by about half. The silly season is already out on how the Unionists might resolve this if Scotland votes yes in autumn 2014: the English Democrats want to know how did our oil get under their water? and Lord Kilclooney suggests partitioning Scotland.

As ever, there’s some sound discussion about the legalities around the independence referendum at Peat Worrier:

While Wallace’s colleague, Michael Moore, has said that the UK Government would not attempt any legal challenge to Holyrood legislation authorising a referendum. Wallace’s statement, by contrast, at least still countenances the possibility. Given Moore’s ditheriness, and the range of wrangling interests pulling the coalition this way and that, I doubt too much stock should be put in whatever view the Secretary of State happens to be entertaining today. This was followed up by a piece in the Scotsman, in which Wallace kept open the possibility of litigation, to spike an SNP referendum, if the transfer of powers (with or without conditions) cannot be agreed between the parliaments.

But it looks like things are progressing – the Scottish Government have agreed to use the Electoral Commission, which suggests in turn that the Westminster coalition aren’t planning to try an undignified blocking strategy.

Joyce McMillan had some altogether sensible advice to give to Johann Lamont in the Scotsman yesterday:

Already facing a collapse in Labour votes and membership caused by the party’s movement to the Blairite right since the 1990s, and facing a triumphant Scottish National Party which has now become the focus of all hope for many centre-left Scottish voters, the new Labour leader now has to deal with her party leader’s decision to join the Prime Minister’s gang on the constitutional issue. She has to agree that Scotland should be made to hold a “binding” yes-no referendum on independence, and to rolling out Westminster Labour “big guns” to lead a government-inspired campaign designed to frighten the Scots into voting “no”.

Now tactically, of course, it is tempting for Labour to join the Tories in wrong-footing Alex Salmond, by demanding the straight yes-no referendum which he fears he cannot win. The First Minister has clearly been taken aback by the extent of his own success in demoralising the opposition parties in Scotland, which has left him without significant support in promoting the “devo-max” option which he also wants to see on the ballot paper; and Labour is doing all it can to prolong his pain.

This is the kind of moment, though, when serious political leaders have to take a step backward from the fray, and the consider the long-term future of the movement which they seek to represent. It’s this kind of courage and statesmanship that is now required of Johann Lamont. The party she leads was founded on trade union representation, on the co-operative consumer movement, and on a passionate belief in Scottish home rule as part of what we would now call a federal UK.

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Why does George Osborne think he’ll get to dictate Scottish currency?

This is genuinely confusing.

Scotland, right now, is part of the United Kingdom. If after autumn 2014 Scots vote for devomax or status quo, Scotland will still be a part of the United Kingdom. As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland uses the same currency as England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but different banknotes – under licence from the Treasury, the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Clydesdale Bank, and four banks in Northern Ireland, get to print banknotes.

If Scotland votes for independence, then among many other decisions that will have to be made, will be about the currency. There seems no reason why we wouldn’t go on using Scottish pound notes and decimal currency, the familiar patterns of £2, £1, 50p, 20p, and even the newstyle thatchers and majors for 10p and 5p: whether the pre-independence coins and banknotes will be honoured or if we’ll all have to trade in our cash in hand for newly-minted Scottish notes and coins – that’ll be all part of the long complicated process of separating Scotland from the rest of the UK. And that’s just the visible part of the currency change – the rest of the banking and currency iceberg will be a lot larger. Scotland inherits 8% of the UK’s total debt. All of that will need to get worked out.

Sp what on earth does Osborne think he’s talking about when he says:

As politicians on both sides of the Border focused on the detail of the debate, Mr Osborne refused to confirm whether an independent Scotland would be allowed to continue to use the pound officially as its currency. In subsequent briefings, the Treasury confirmed that, while it could not block Scotland from using the currency, it could be reduced to a situation where it had no say in fiscal policy, was prevented from printing its own money and was locked out of any valuation decisions. Treasury officials confirmed this would mean Scottish banks, which are licensed by the Bank of England to print their own notes, would be barred from doing so in the event of independence.

This leader in the Financial Times doesn’t clarify things either. The presumption seems to be that Scotland has no alternative but to keep using English currency or to join the euro:

Mr Osborne refused to say whether the rest of the UK would agree to a currency union with an independent Scotland, telling ITV News: “All these issues are going to be fleshed out now and flushed out. The SNP is going to have to explain what its plans are for the currency of Scotland.”
The SNP’s longstanding support for an independent Scotland in the European Union has implied euro membership, which is a prerequisite for new EU members, subject to a referendum. Mr Osborne said last night that Scots would ask themselves “is that a currency you want to be joining at the moment?”

I really don’t get it – is there something obvious I’m missing, or are they? Just as the referendum should have three options – status quo, devomax, or independence – so an independent Scotland has three options – keep using Treasury sterling, establish Scottish pounds and pence, or join the euro. (And note: Scotland is not a new member of the EU.)

Why would Osborne think it was up to him to decide this? Does Malachi Malagrowther need to write some more letters?

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Filed under Currency, Economics, European politics, Scottish Politics

I was wrong. The Conservatives really are that inept.

Okay. I was wrong.

When David Cameron declared that he could decide the date of the referendum on independence, claiming that a long delay is “very damaging for Scotland” and having Downing Street announce that a referendum carried out without Westminster backing would “only have advisory status” apparently he genuinely thought that an English Tory Prime Minister would be welcomed as a sort of hero riding to the rescue of the Scots.

Apparently the Conservative Press office genuinely believed that a message like this is conciliatory:

David Cameron will today seek to ban Alex Salmond from holding his referendum on breaking up Britain unless he agrees to a list of Coalition demands.

The Scottish First Minister would be forced to name the date for the vote and be restricted to a clear-cut question on whether Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom. The two men were on a constitutional collision-course last night as Mr Salmond signalled his outright rejection of the Prime Minister’s terms.

It is entirely possible to just not like Alex Salmond very much, and to be unsure of how you’ll vote in a referendum, and never in your life to have voted SNP, and still not care for the English Prime Minister bullshitting about how he’ll “force” the Scottish First Minister to come to heel, and that it will be Westminister, not Holyrood, that decides the date and content of the referendum.

Honestly, I really thought this must be some kind of cunning anti-Union scheme, probably set up by George Osborne, who may be ignorant of basic economics but who reputedly is quite smart and is no fan of the union, being able to do the electoral arithmetic that tells an English Tory that Scottish Labour voters could yet turf them out in 2015. Because it is so obvious to anyone who knows more of Scotland that roughly where to find it on a map, that if you want to get the Scots to vote for independence (currently only 29% of Scots are definitely for, though 53% against says there’s a big “undecided” vote to play for) the way to do it would be just this.

As Mary from Edinburgh said on Call Kaye yesterday morning:

“I’m not for independence at all. I worry that an intervention from Westminster may result in an anti-English kneejerk vote.”

But apparently Cameron genuinely thought that the Scottish people would like him for helping the referendum happen – with a few little conditions of course.

Nicola Sturgeon (BBC Radio 4’s Today) made the point clear: “It’s the attachment of conditions that gives the game away – this is Westminster trying to interfere. Perhaps I should be relaxed about that because the more a Tory government tries to interfere in Scottish democracy then I suspect the greater the support for independence will be, but there is a key issue of democratic principle here.”

I have to say that listening to Professor Tim Luckhurst of Kent University (on Call Kaye) explain that it’s ridiculous to suppose that the Scottish electorate should have the the deciding vote on a separation, and blandly ignore that if the whole of the UK is polled, effectively this gives the English the controlling vote to decide if Scotland ought to be allowed to separate from the UK, was enough to make a nationalist of me if only he’d gone on talking – so I switched off. Aidan O’Neil made this argument in the Guardian last November.

To Professor Luckhurst, apparently, it makes sense that you can’t have a divorce without mutual consent. He’s a professor of journalism, not of family law: apparently he genuinely doesn’t realise that it is entirely possible for a divorce to take place simply because one partner in the relationship has decided to end it.

No grand scheme on the part of the Tories. They just really didn’t see that neither David Cameron nor his party nor his policies are appealling to the Scottish people – and that no matter what a Scot’s support for independence or liking for Alex Salmond, in Scotland we accept that the SNP made clear when they intended to hold a referendum if they won, and they won the elections, and now they’ve got a right to do what they said they’d do. That’s democracy.

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